The famous white suits with reflective helmets are a marvel of technology, proven in many space missions. However, their design goes back to the Apollo missions (nearly 40 years ago) and spacesuits go from astronaut to astronaut regardless of their age. The old model is finally leaving: NASA has unveiled a new modern prototype of the spacesuits that will be used for the Artemis III mission. The goal, in part, is to ensure the safety of astronauts by offering them greater flexibility and practicality for their future missions.
Space suits, or extra-vehicular vehicles (EMUs), date back to the days of Neil Armstrong. As such, their service life has far exceeded that of service, and astronauts regularly report signs of malfunction and malfunction. “He looks cool, but he is 35 years old, smells like a locker room and fades inside,” astronaut Douglas Harry Wheelock testifies ironically. Last year, we even reported water ingress into helmets, an apparently recurring hazard that astronauts have been exposed to on several occasions.
Clearly, while they represent a technological feat, these outdated space suits endanger the lives of astronauts and interfere with the smooth running of space missions. In addition, astronauts doing EVAs from the ISS are only in space for a few hours. Thus, the risks are relatively limited. However, future space missions are much more ambitious, from Artemis III (creating a sustainable lunar base) to conquering Mars. The new suits will need to remain functional for a much longer time, withstand extreme cold and radiation, prevent dust infiltration and limit loss of mobility, among other things.
Lighter and more efficient wetsuits
To develop the new units, dubbed AxEMU, NASA turned to space engineering firm Axiom Space. By setting technical and safety standards with the agency, the company has developed a suit that provides greater mobility and flexibility to enable more forays to the lunar surface. It weighs around 55kg – 25 times lighter than the old model – and has more connections. Note, however, that these connections do not allow for easy donning and doffing of this model, as astronauts must enter and exit through a sort of trapdoor at the back of the suit.
The new suit is also designed to withstand extreme temperatures (-13°C to several hundred degrees below zero in permanently shadowed lunar craters) at the Moon’s south pole. It also has several flashlights above the helmet, as well as various scientific analysis and sampling tools that can operate in low light conditions. The front-facing camera, which shoots in high resolution, will also allow high-quality images to be transmitted in real time to Earth.
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The model shown by Axiom Space is dark gray, but the one for the Artemis mission will be white so that it can effectively reflect light and maintain the suit’s internal temperature. In addition, this new model is designed for 90% of American women and men. Scheduled for 2025, the Artemis III mission will mark both the return of a man to the moon and the first ever woman of color and a man to set foot on lunar soil.
NASA wants to develop a sustainable aerospace economy
After decades of monopoly, NASA is said to have chosen Axiom Space not only for its expertise in space technology, but also with the goal of creating a prosperous and sustainable aerospace economy. From this point of view, the company sells its automotive technology designed for the Moon to an agency responsible for designing, developing, commissioning, certifying and manufacturing the suits. Educational prototypes and supporting equipment will also be provided by the company. For its part, NASA is responsible for astronaut training, mission planning, and system approval.
Axiom Space may also sell its services to other customers, subject to compliance with all terms of the contract with NASA. “NASA is leading the way in enabling the growing space economy by leveraging NASA’s industry capabilities and expertise to provide lunar services that are as safe, efficient and effective as possible,” Lara Kearney said in a statement. Surface mobility program. After Artemis, NASA intends to hire Collins Aerospace to develop new models of electric trains for spacewalks for astronauts working on the ISS.